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Yemen foes begin direct talks to resolve key issues

United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) is welcomed as he arrives to give a press conference at the Information ministry in Kuwait City on April 26, 2016. The Kuwaiti emir met with Yemen's peace negotiators and urged them to forge ahead with a peace agreement to end 13 months of war in the impoverished Arab nation. A source close to the talks in Kuwait City meanwhile said the two sides finally approved a general framework for the talks and were set to start looking into the central issues. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP

United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) is welcomed as he arrives to give a press conference at the Information ministry in Kuwait City on April 26, 2016. The Kuwaiti emir met with Yemen’s peace negotiators and urged them to forge ahead with a peace agreement to end 13 months of war in the impoverished Arab nation. A source close to the talks in Kuwait City meanwhile said the two sides finally approved a general framework for the talks and were set to start looking into the central issues. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP

Yemen’s warring parties began face-to-face peace talks on Saturday on “key issues” in a bid to end the conflict in the impoverished Arab country, the United Nations said.

“All delegations are present. Key issues will be addressed,” Charbel Raji, spokesman for Yemen’s UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told AFP about the negotiations taking place in Kuwait.

Most of the meetings in talks which began April 21 have so far been confined to encounters between rival delegations Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

More than 6,800 people have been killed and around 2.8 million displaced in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition began operations in March 2015 against Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who seized swathes of territory including the capital Sanaa.

Key issues to navigate include the withdrawal of armed groups, a handover of heavy weapons, the resumption of a political transition and the release of prisoners.

The new phase of meetings comes after the government and rebel delegations each submitted a framework for a political and security solution to end the 13-month war.

No details were available on the content of the proposals, but the government delegation in Kuwait said its is based on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

The resolution states that the rebels must withdraw from seized territories and disarm before talks can progress.

The rebel-controlled sabanews.net website reported that a “new phase in the negotiations begins Saturday, which would truly test the positions of the United Nations and international community” in the search for peace.

Both sides said that they were committed to ensuring the success of the talks in Kuwait, which were preceded by a shaky ceasefire since April 11.

The main sticking point remains that the rebels want to discuss a political settlement before surrendering arms while the government delegation insists that implementing the UN resolution is a priority.

The government delegation on Friday called on the UN envoy to end what it called ceasefire violations by the rebels.

The 15-member UN Security Council on Monday stressed the importance of agreeing on a “roadmap” to implement security measures including the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Yemeni towns.



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